Monday, October 18, 2010

Business and Government Just Don't Mix

COLUMN NOTES: There were several responses in the comments section of the paper so if you want to see them, you can click on the linked headline.

HARBESON: Is there power in the PAC?

SELLERSBURG — Until recently, I had never given a lot of thought to the chamber of commerce, now known locally as One Southern Indiana. I always thought of the chamber as a private voluntary organization whose main objective was to help local business people network with each other.

To me, they were simply a business-to-business marketing tool that some found useful.

Although I knew the individual businesses within a chamber of commerce would unfortunately have to deal with governments, I never really thought the chamber itself would purposefully get enmeshed in sticky political activities.

But One Southern Indiana has jumped headfirst into the nasty goo of politics now that it has created a political action committee. This year marks the first time they have really stepped in it and endorsed specific candidates for office.

What a mistake. Business owners, even in a given geographical area, have far too many disparate interests for a chamber of commerce to speak for the area as a whole politically.

Before even looking at details, we already know political action will firmly gel around specific special interests, because that’s the only way government operates. When a politician votes for or against any government action, some businesses win and some lose. The same government action one business celebrates can hurt many others.

So, by endorsing candidates to promote some local business interests, One Southern Indiana will almost surely be actively working against others, even their own members, depending upon the specific government laws enacted.

Which means One Southern Indiana will now help government more than free enterprise.

Even on a very basic level, endorsing candidates does not make sense for an organization that supposedly exists to help local business owners. Helping local business means giving owners the information they need to succeed, not to work against some of them through government action.

The only reason to form a PAC is because the powers that be in the organization want to make sure their particular business’ special interests are served. Now, it’s reasonable to say that the bigger players are putting in most of the money and would therefore control the organization. It’s an association of private businesses after all, and if they want to roll in the political sludge and use government to protect their interests then so be it.

You could also say that as a private, voluntary organization anyone who disagrees with their actions can simply opt out and refuse to support any of their functions. And I would agree with you if that were the case. But I found some muck oozing out that makes this questionable.

For example, did you know that according to 1si’s website one of the “top investors” in One Southern Indiana is the city of Jeffersonville? How does having a government entity as one of the top investors affect what is being done in a so-called business organization?

In addition, one of the candidates endorsed is Ron Grooms, a current Jeffersonville city councilman who is hoping to get a job as a state senator. This means an endorsed candidate is working for a government that is one of the top investors in the, umm, business organization.

I also noticed that one of the PAC members, Marty Bell, represents Greater Clark County Schools, according to the website. Why would the largest government school system in Clark County be a voting member of a PAC for a private business organization?

How do you think all this mixing of government and business would tend to affect the workings of One Southern Indiana? It can’t be in the best interests of those who are working toward more freedom from government control that’s for sure.

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson hates to find oozing government muck because it’s really hard to clean off.

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